My sisters and I used to visit with my grandmother, who lived on Amami Oshima, a small island in southwest Japan. After school, we would spend most days at the beach, chasing blue hermit crabs the size of tennis balls and swimming in the warm water. Beneath the surface was another world teeming with diverse life and so much color. The corals were healthy and vibrant. I spent hours swimming in and around the structures, observing the fish and listening in on the loud chatter of the reefs.
On special weekends, my grandma would pack a cooler full of cold drinks, vegetables, and meat to grill. As the tide went down, she would task us with foraging for the appetizers: black sea snails from the exposed rocks and a type of seaweed called mozuku that grew in the sandy shallows, which we would eat raw with a splash of ponzu. Amami and the surrounding ocean provided us with everything we needed, as it had been doing for locals for generations.
The time on this beautiful island marked the beginning of my lifelong love affair with the ocean, which is a recurring theme in my art practice. I recognize the immense privilege of knowing where my home country is and being able to go back to it, creating these invaluable childhood memories that have helped shape the person I am today. And so, I make art to honor the reverence for the ocean that was instilled in me by the community in Amami in hopes that when people view my art, something deep stirs inside them as well—a seed planted to honor their own relationship with nature as something familial, sacred, and worthy of respect and protection.